Game Time: Rockets 2009-10 Season Is Slip-Slidin' Away

ho·me·o·sta·sis  (hō-'mē-ō-stā'sĩs) n. The ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes.

I know some people complain about how long the professional sports regular seasons are. Do we really need 162 Major League Baseball games to decide who goes to the playoffs? Are 82 NBA regular season games really necessary? Certainly, the owners hear those questions and have their own reasons (mostly green with dead presidents on them) for nodding their heads vehemently that indeed those games are necessary.

However, I would contend that ultimately we want the right teams to be advancing to the postseason, and the longer the season, the more likely we are to get at the truth. It's just the way sports works. There is an internal balance to team sports -- an equilibrium, homeostasis, if you will -- that allows teams and individuals over the course of several months to find their appropriate place in the pecking order.

In the gambling world, frankly, it's what the "Season Win Totals" bets for each team are based on. Look at the totals that Vegas predicted for each of the NBA teams this season, and see how many teams have begun to trend toward the respective projected number, as if those totals have some inexplicable gravitational pull.   

Sure, the Kings were hot early in the season, but they're hitting the skids now to where anyone with over or under 24 wins is going to sweat it out, either way. The Denver Nuggets, as great as they've been, will still hover right around the 52 wins that Vegas predicted for them when it's all said and done.

It's sports homeostasis, and when it comes to the science of deciphering the equilibrium of a full season, oddsmakers are Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton...squared...times two....over pi.

This brings us to the matter of our very own Houston Rockets. The number of wins that Las Vegas predicted for the Rockets is 36 wins. Currently, the Rockets stand at 28-27 on the season, so if you're holding an "Over" ticket, it's certainly not time to panic...yet. A 9-18 record the rest of the way gets you the requisite dinner of chicken which comes with a "winner, winner" ticket. Hell, if you got in at 36 (and not 36.5 like some), then the Rockets would have to go 7-20 for you to lose, and as discombobulated and defense-averse as they look right now, I'd still venture to say they can find seven wins the rest of the way.

Okay, here comes the word of warning....I thought the same thing with
the Astros entering September. If you remember, the Astros at one point
around Labor Day sat at a very safe 70-72, needing only four more wins
to pay "Over" bettors who got in at "Over 73.5 wins."   Well, you
remember how September went for the Astros (unless your body has a
defense mechanism whereby you've blocked it out, kind of like people
who are in massive car wrecks and don't remember the moment of impact)
-- they sputtered over the finish line, leaking every fluid imaginable
with a 4-20 record, finishing at 74-88.

(Sadly, two of my
co-workers got in at 74.5 and 75 wins, respectively. I won't say who
they are, but their names rhyme with "Pohn Shmanato" and "Skance
Mierlein." Tragic.)

In the process, many kids went unfed from
the uncashed "Over 74" tickets and even those of us who did win were
level-five pissed at the Astros for making us sweat the entire month of
September. (The good news is, I learned how to curse Felipe Paulino in
three different languages!) In short, it didn't have to be that way.  

Okay,
so what does this have to do with the Houston Rockets? Well, my fear is
that March is the new September, that the cute little team we all grew
to love when they were compiling a 20-13 record out of the gate with a
formula of "Aaron Brooks, trying really hard, and more Aaron Brooks" is
finding it's internal equilibrium...and it's going to settle
dangerously close to 36 wins.

Now that the ether of Morey Heist
2010 has worn off, let's assess where the Rockets are right now as we
head into the final 27 games of the year. These things we can hopefully
agree upon:

-- Until Kevin Martin acclimates himself and, more importantly, starts
knocking down shots, this is a team who is still devoid of a guy who
can score in bunches, answer other teams' spurts, or get something good
with the shot clock running down. Aaron Brooks is the closest weapon
they have to something that fits this description, and Chase Budinger
shows signs. That's it.

-- The Rockets got a couple of near seven-footers in the deal last week
(Jordan Hill and Hilton Armstrong), but neither has played yet, so
thanks to his one blocked shot against the Hornets, Jared Jeffries is
now the only Rocket averaging ONE blocked shot or greater per
game...and he's averaging exactly one. This fits the Jared Jeffries
Corollary which states that "If Jared Jeffries leads your team in ANY
category, you probably have some major holes on your team."

-- The Rockets not only lack go-to scorers, but they spend significant
portions of the game with the two worst offensive players in the league
at their position on the floor, and often at the same time -- Shane
Battier and Chuck Hayes.

Okay, so all of that said, I decided to dig into the remaining 27 games
to see how stressful the "Quest for 37" will be. Oh, reality check for
those of you concerned with the playoffs this year. Forget the
playoffs, people. Let's start figuring out who will represent the
Rockets at the lottery in May. I say Steve Francis...old time's sake,
ya know.

So, examining the schedule, I don't go entirely game by
game. I think sometimes you look at chunks of the schedule and decide
"They should win three of four here" or "This road trip will probably
be 1-2, just not sure who they beat."  With that in mind, here we go
(HOME games in CAPS)...

Feb 24 ORLANDO
Feb 26 SAN ANTONIO
Feb 27 @ Utah

This
is still too closely removed from the horrific Pacers game on Saturday
to pick anything but 0-3, although the Spurs are nothing to write home
about right now either.

Mar 1 TORONTO
Mar 3 SACRAMENTO

I
think a split is a given here with 2-0 a distinct possibility, but
staying conservative let's go 1-1 in these two games. Running total 1-4.

Mar 6 @ Minnesota
Mar 7 @ Detroit
Mar 9 @ Washington

The
Rockets are flat out better than all three of these teams. The road
aspect worries me a little bit, but I'll allow them to muster a 2-1
road trip here. Running total 3-5.

Mar 13 NEW JERSEY
Mar 15 DENVER
Mar 17 MEMPHIS
Mar 19 BOSTON

After
losing to Indiana at home this past weekend, can we really assume the
Rockets go 2-2 in a homestand that includes two title contenders and
one other playoff hopeful? Homeostasis has started to hit Memphis, too.
Fine, I'll go 2-2. Running total 5-7.

Mar 21 @ New York
Mar 22 @ Chicago
Mar 24 @ Oklahoma City

This
trip has 0-3 written all over. Forget Chicago and OKC, they're losing
those games. But the trip to Madison Square Garden has disaster written
all over it. 1:00 p.m. EST start time, Tracy looking to exact revenge.
I just have a bad feeling. Of course, it's a month away so by then
homeostasis (or menopause) will have hit Tracy, too. I'll say 1-2 in
this chunk. Running total 6-9. (Getting there....)

Mar 25 LA CLIPPERS
Mar 27 LA LAKERS
Mar 30 WASHINGTON

The
Clippers are a tad sneaky, but I'll give the Rockets the benefit of the
doubt and a tenuous 2-1 on this segment. Running total 8-10. So for
those with "Over 36 wins," you've got your push. Now let's see where
you get your winner....

Mar 31 @ SA
Apr 2 @ Boston
Apr 4 @ Indiana
Apr 6 @ Memphis

Yikes.
Even with two non-playoff teams mixed in, I don't feel great about this
road trip. In my heart of hearts, I still think the Rockets make
everyone sweat out "Over 36 wins," which means we need a big bump in
the road. This trip may be it. 0-4 here, for a running total of 8-14.
Ouch.

Apr 7 UTAH
Apr 9 CHARLOTTE
Apr 11 @ Phoenix
Apr 12 @ Sacramento
Apr 14 NEW ORLEANS

So
that means to get over the hump and get paid, the Rockets would need
just one win in these final five games. I don't think we can assume
that it will come from the Utah, Phoenix, or New Orleans games. You
know, since those three teams are all better than the Rockets and
whatnot. So it comes down to winning a game at home against the Bobcats
(who are a wretched 7-20 on the road) or winning a game against the
reeling Sacramento Kings in Arco Arena (where they are actually
competitive at 13-13). I'm going to say that the Rockets get there on
April 9 and let everyone breathe easy the last week of the season,
allowing us all to count up the ping pong balls that the Rockets will
get in the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery.

For the sake of closure,
let's give them a 2-3 closeout here, making the running total for the
last 27 games a 10-17 stint, and a final record of 38-44.  

Ok, now someone get me Yao's orthopedist on the phone. Stat!

Listen
to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the
Sean
& John Show, and follow him on Twitter at
http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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